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Subject: Storage | March 8, 2016 - 08:07 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, Seagate, pcie, NVMe, flash drive
Today Seagate announced that they are production ready on a couple of NVMe PCIe SSD models. These are data-center tailored units that focus on getting as much parallel flash into as small of a space as possible. From engineering drawings, the first appears to be a half height (HHHL) device, communicates over a PCIe 3.0 x8 link, and reaches a claimed 6.7GB/s:
The second model is a bit more interesting for a few reasons. This is a PCIe 3.0 x16 unit (same lane configuration as a high end GPU) that claims 10 GB/s:
10 GB/s, hmm, where have I seen that before? :)
The second image gives away a bit of what may be going on under that heatsink. There appears to be four M.2 form factor SSDs in there, which would imply that it would appear as four separate NVMe devices. This is no big deal for enterprise data applications that can be pointed at multiple physical devices, but that 10 GB/s does start to make more sense (as a combined total) as we know of no single SSD controller capable of that sort of throughput. It took four Intel SSD 750’s for us to reach that same 10 GB/s figure, so it stands to reason that Seagate would use that same trick, only with M.2 SSDs they can fit everything onto a single slot card.
That’s all we have on this release so far, but we may see some real product pics sneak out of the Open Compute Project Summit, running over the next couple of days.
Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2016 - 08:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, logitech, G810 Orion Spectrum, RGB LED
Logitech's G810 Orion Spectrum utilized their own proprietary Romer-G switches, they are non-linear with a 1.5mm travel and an actuation force of 45g; they also allow for an impressive light show. The software which controls the LEDs is quite impressive, the Freestyle mode allows you to change the illuminated portion on everything on the keyboard up to and including the logo, media keys and even the three Lock keys. You can read about how Hardware Canucks felt about these switches as well as watch a video showing off the RGB LEDs in their review.
"The Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum includes multiple improvements over previous G-series keyboards, including the new Romer-G switch, RGB lighting and a simpler, more efficient design."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum Tenkeyless RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ NikKTech
- Zalman Z-Machine ZM-K700M Gaming Keyboard Review @ OCC
- Gamdias Mechanical Gaming Combo @ Benchmark Reviews
- Razer Black Widow Tournament Edition Chroma @ Kitguru
- Razer Wildcat Gamepad @ Kitguru
- Ozone Neon Precision Laser Mouse Review @ Neoseeker
- Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum Gaming Mouse @ Tech ARP
- Corsair Scimitar MOBA Mouse Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2016 - 06:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Seagate, PCIe SSD, NVMe
Seagate is rightfully bragging about their new PCIe SSD line up, the fastest currently available. The drives come in two types, a 16 lane and an 8 lane model, using a standard PCIe interface. The 16 lane version provides the full theoretical speed of 10GBps while the 8 lane model is less expensive and offers a mere 6.7GBps of throughput. These drives are designed for enterprise usage but if you can afford the steep price tag which will come with these drives you could certainly using them for an impressive upgrade. Check out more at The Inquirer.
"SEAGATE HAS announced what the firm claims will be the world's fastest solid state drive (SSD). The 10GBps device is already production-ready and has been built to Open Compute Project (OCP) specifications, making it suitable for hyperscale data centres."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Talking Soft Machines with David Kanter: The TR Podcast 189
- Reviving The Best Keyboard Ever @ Hack a Day
- Windows 10: Microsoft delays Redstone update for another year @ The Inquirer
- Qualcomm scores points in promoting Snapdragon 820 chips @ DigiTimes
- Flash is too fat. A glut of supply means growth is slower and slower @ The Register
- AMD to fix slippery hypervisor-busting bug in its CPU microcode @ The Register
- Zorin OS: The Linux Distribution for Windows XP and 7 Fans @ Linux.com
- Raspberry Pi 3 @ The Inquirer
- For A Few Dollars More Than The Raspberry Pi 3 You Can Have A Much Faster Board @ Phoronix
- Microsoft tells Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring users to turn it off and on again @ The Inquirer
- Passive WiFi could be 10,000 times more energy efficient @ The Inquirer
- Video Capture & Edit Guide @ OCC
- Sony FDR-X1000V 4K Action Camera @ Tech ARP
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 8, 2016 - 04:06 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form-factor, SFX, SFF, SF600, SF450, PSU, power supply, corsair
Corsair has released their first SFX form-factor power supplies today, with the SF450 and SF600. Both are fully modular designs, and offer high-quality components as well as an 80 Plus Gold certification.
The Corsair SF600 SFX power supply
The power output for these PSUs are indicated by the naming, with the SF450 outputting up to 450W, and the SF600 up to 600W. These power supplies both feature "Zero RPM Fan Mode", which allows them to run without the fan during less strenuous loads, and all capacitors are Japanese made, and rated for up to 105 °C operation.
Here are the specifications and features from Corsair:
- SFX Form Factor: Designed for high performance small form factor systems.
- 80 PLUS Gold certified: High-efficiency operation for less excess heat and lower operating costs.
- Fully modular cable set: Detachable DC cables make builds and upgrades easy, with clean, great-looking results.
- 100% All Japanese 105°C capacitors: Premium internal components ensure solid power delivery and long term reliability.
- Zero RPM Fan Mode: Virtually silent operation at low and medium loads.
- Seven year warranty: Your guarantee of reliable operation that will last across multiple system builds.
- MSRP: SF600 $119.99, SF450 $89.99
The SF600 pictured with its flat, ribbon style cables
Pricing is listed at $89.99 for the 450W version, and $119.99 for the 600W version. As to availability, the companty states that the SF450 and SF600 are "available immediately worldwide from Corsair’s worldwide network of authorized retailers and distributors".
Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2016 - 11:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, lionhead, fable legends, dx12, DirectX 12
Officially, Microsoft has not yet shut down Lionhead Studios, but they have canceled Fable Legends. They “are in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK.” Press Play, another developer at Microsoft Studios in Europe, will be shut down as a result of this same announcement, but that studio only developed Xbox One titles, and so I'll defer to other gaming outlets to cover that part of the story.
It's always unfortunate when jobs are cut, which seem certain given the closing paragraph of the Xbox announcement thanking them for their service. The weird part about this whole issue is how late plug was pulled in its development cycle. A closed beta has been operating for months, and a demo was shared with press as a DirectX 12 benchmark. The business model was supposed to be free-to-play, which means that it could potentially continue to bleed money after launch, but you would expect that concerns would have boiled over much earlier than now.
For our audience, this also means the cancellation of one of the expected, early implementations of DirectX 12. Lionhead Studios have also contributed to Unreal Engine 4 during the development of Fable Legends, particularly with shadow map optimization. I think their Global Illumination features, the main topic of the same article that was linked in this paragraph, were contributed upstream too, but I can't find an explicit source of that.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 7, 2016 - 11:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vulkan, nvidia, graphics drivers, game ready
This new driver for NVIDIA brings Vulkan support to their current, supported branch. This is particularly interesting for me, because the Vulkan branch used to pre-date fixes for Adobe Creative Cloud, which meant that things like “Export As...” in Photoshop CC didn't work and After Effects CC would crash. They are also WHQL-certified, and they roll in all of the “Game Ready” fixes and optimizations that were released since ~October, which would be mostly new for Vulkan's branch.
... This is going to be annoying to temporarily disable...
Speaking of which, GeForce Game Ready 364.47 drivers is classified as “Game Ready” itself. The four titles optimized with this release are: Tom Clancy's The Division, Need For Speed, Hitman, and Ashes of the Singularity. If you are interested in playing those games, then this driver is what NVIDIA recommends that you use.
Note that an installation bug has been reported, however. When installing with multiple monitors, NVIDIA suggests that you disable all but one during the setup process, but you can safely re-enable them after. For me, with four monitors and a fairly meticulous desktop icon layout, this was highly annoying, but something I've had to deal with over time (especially the last two, beta Vulkan drivers). It's probably a good idea to close all applications and screenshot your icons before running the installer.
Subject: Editorial | March 6, 2016 - 04:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, streaming out loud, sol., pcper live, live
Missed the 12-hour event? Live the magic for yourself here:
Several weeks ago, I tossed out the idea of doing a long-form live stream with the goal of showcasing for our readers, viewers and fans what we do around here. Why not dedicate a full day to interviewing guests, playing some games, doing some Q&A and putting together some projects? Well that's what we are doing.
Let me introduce you to...
Streaming Out Loud - PCPer Live!
Starts: 9am PT / 12pm ET
Ends: 9pm PT / 12am ET
Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!
That's right, we are hosting a 12-hour long live stream on PC Perspective in which we will drag as many guests in with us as possible to talk shop, giveaway some hardware and celebrate PC enthusiasts and technology!
- Patrick Norton, tekthing.com
- Tom Petersen, NVIDIA
- Andrew Coonrad, Logitech
- Jacob Freeman, EVGA
- David Hewlett, The Internet
- Dan Baker, Oxide Games
- Ben Kuchera, Polygon.com
- 650 GQ Power Supply
- 650 P2 Power Supply
- Z170 Classified K
- GTX 970 (3975)
- AOC G2460PF FreeSync 24" 1080p TN
- VOID Surround RGB Headset
- M65 RGB Mouse
- Strafe RGB Keyboard MX Silent
- G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse
- G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard
- G640 mouse pad
- X99S SLI Krait Edition motherboard
- 5x Thunder Storm gaming mouse pads
- OCZ Storage Solutions
- 2x Trion 150 480GB SSDs
- More to be confirmed!!
Activities (schedule to be determined):
- Allyn teaches soldering
- Future of VR discussion
- Q&A from chat and Twitter
- Building a table PC
- Gaming sesssions: Rocket League, UT2004, more
- Ken vs. Ryan Steam Controller Challenge
- Riveting game of RISK on a table-top PC
And of course, who wouldn't want to tune in and see the carnage of a team of wily computer nerds attempt to keep a live stream on and stable for the entirety of a 12 hour day? If nothing else, it might be fun to see what breaks, right?
I want to thank our friends and sponsors for getting together some prizes for us as well as to the guests that willingly are going to spend some of their Sunday with us, all in the name of PC gaming and PC hardware!
Have anything specific you want us to cover or discuss? Let me know in the comments below!! Don't forget to sign up for our PC Perspecgive Live! Mailing List to get the latest updates on dumb shit like this we will be doing in the future!
PS: You can find the schedule for Sunday's live stream festivities after the break!
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2016 - 09:48 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: PCIe power, PCI Express, nvidia, GTX 950 2G, gtx 950, graphics card, gpu, geforce, asus, 75W
ASUS has released a new version of the GTX 950 called the GTX 950 2G, and the interesting part isn't what's been added, but what was taken away; namely, the PCIe power requirement.
When NVIDIA announced the GTX 950 (which Ryan reviewed here) it carried a TDP of 90W, which prevented it from running without a PCIe power connector. The GTX 950 was (seemingly) the replacement for the GTX 750, which didn't require anything beyond motherboard power via the PCIe slot, and the same held true for the more powerful GTX 750 Ti. Without the need for PCIe power that GTX 750 Ti became our (any many others) default recommendation to turn any PC into a gaming machine (an idea we just happened to cover in depth here).
Here's a look at the specs from ASUS for the GTX 950 2G:
- Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
- Interface: PCI Express 3.0
- Video Memory: GDDR5 2GB
- CUDA Cores: 768
- Memory Clock: 6610 MHz
- Memory Interface: 128-bit
- Engine Clock
- Gaming Mode (Default) - GPU Boost Clock : 1190 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1026 MHz
- OC Mode - GPU Boost Clock : 1228 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1051 MHz
- Interface: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, DVI
- Power Consumption: Up to 75W, no additional PCIe power required
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.5 x 1.6 inches
Whether this model has any relation to the rumored "GTX 950 SE/LP" remains to be seen (and other than power, this card appears to have stock GTX 950 specs), but the option of adding in a GPU without concern over power requirements makes this a very attractive upgrade proposition for older builds or OEM PC's, depending on cost.
The full model number is ASUS GTX950-2G,
and a listing is up on Amazon, though seemingly only a placeholder at the moment. (Link removed. The listing was apparently for an existing GTX 950 product.)
Podcast #389 - Thermaltake Core X9, the Controversy around DirectX 12, FreeSync HDMI Displays, and more!
Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2016 - 08:24 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: WD, video, uwp, thermaltake, Samsung, reeven, podcast, Okeanos, Microsoft Store, HelioSeal, hdmi, freesync, dx12, Core X9, brontes, ashes of the singularity
PC Perspective Podcast #389 - 03/03/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the Thermaltake Core X9, the Controversy around DirectX 12, FreeSync HDMI Displays, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store (audio only)
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman
Program length: 1:32:49
And the VLAN on Saturday!
Week in Review:
0:51:40 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Allyn: Sony DSC-RX10 II
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: uwp, radeon, dx12, amd
AMD's Robert Hallock, frequenter of the PC Perspective live streams and a favorite of the team here, is doing an AMAA on reddit today. While you can find some excellent information and views from Robert in that Q&A session, two particular answers stood out to me.
Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on the recent developments regarding Ashes of the Singularity and DirectX 12 in PC Perspective and Extremetech's tests? Will changes in AMD's driver to include FlipEx support fix the framerate issues and allow high-refresh monitor owners to enjoy their hardware fully? http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/PC-Gaming-Shakeup-Ashes-Singularity-DX12-and-Microsoft-Store
Answer from Robert: We will add DirectFlip support shortly.
Well, there you have it. This is the first official notice I have from AMD that it is in fact its driver that was causing the differences in behavior between Radeon and GeForce cards in Ashes of the Singularity last week. It appears that a new driver will be incoming (sometime) that will enable DirectFlip / FlipEx, allowing exclusive full screen modes in DX12 titles. Some of our fear of the unknown can likely be resolved - huzzah!
Ashes of the Singularity wouldn't enter exclusive full screen mode on AMD Radeon hardware.
Another quesiton also piqued my interest:
Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on how FreeSync is affected by the way games sold through the Windows Store run in borderless windowed mode?
Answer from Robert: This article discusses the issue thoroughly. Quote: "games sold through Steam, Origin [and] anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11."
While not exactly spelling it out, this answer seems to indicate that for the time being, AMD doesn't think FreeSync will work with Microsoft Store sold games in the forced borderless windowed mode. NVIDIA has stated that G-Sync works in some scenarios with the new Gears of War (a Universal Windows Platform app), but it seems they too have issues.
As more informaiton continues to come in, from whatever sources we can validate, I'll keep you updated!
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 04:54 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: uwp, uwa, universal windows platform, microsoft, full screen, dx12, DirectX 12
With all of the debate and discussion that followed the second release of Ashes of the Singularity's DX12 benchmark mode, questions about full screen capabilities on AMD hardware and a debate of the impact the Microsoft Store and Universal Windows Platform would have on PC gaming, we went to the source of the debate to try and get some feedback. Microsoft was willing to talk about the issues that arose from this most recent storm though honestly what it is willing to say on the record today is limited.
When asked specifically about the UWP and PC games made available on the Windows 10 Store, Microsoft reiterated its desire to work with gamers and the community to find what works.
“UWP (Universal Windows Platform) allows developers to create experiences that are easily deployed across all Windows 10 devices, from PCs to tablets to phones to Xbox One. When it comes to a UWP game on Windows 10 PCs, we’re early in our journey. We’re listening to the feedback from the community – multiple GPUs, SLI, crossfire, v-sync, etc. We’re embracing the feedback and working to ensure gamers on Windows 10 have a great experience. We’ll have more to discuss in the coming months.” – a Microsoft spokesperson
It's good to know that Microsoft is listening to the media and gamers and seems willing to make changes based on feedback. It will have to be seen though what of this feedback gets implemented and in what time frame.
Universal Windows Platform
One particular fear for some gamers is that Microsoft would attempt to move to the WDDM compositing model not just for games sold in the Windows Store, but for all games that run on the OS. I asked Microsoft directly:
To answer your question, can we assume that those full screen features that work today with DX12 will work in the future as well – yes.
This should ease the worries of people thinking the very worst for Windows and DX12 gaming going forward. As long as DX12 allows for games to enter into an exclusive full screen mode, like the FlipEx option we discussed in a previous story, games sold through Steam, Origin and anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11.
Windows 10 Store
I have some meetings setup with various viewpoints on this debate for GDC in a couple weeks, so expect more then!
Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2016 - 05:25 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs
That's right folks, it is time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN with fun and prizes for all. For those of you who have not participated in any of the last 11 this is a perfect time to get to know a great group of gamers over the day and maybe even tempt you to participate in the regular gaming sessions.
The rules for joining and being eligible to win prizes are as follows:
- You must be a registered member at the PCPer forums (register here)
- You must have a minimum of 5 forum posts prior to the start of VLAN
- You must post to this thread stating your intention to attend the VLAN event
- You must meet the eligibility requirements (if any) of the individual sponsors below
- Your shipping address must be in the Continental United States or Canada
- Lastly, you must participate in the VLAN event by playing games with us and having fun!!
It would be appreciated if you reply to this thread to confirm attendance, it also contains valuable information on our Teamspeak server rules and connection details as well as links to the threads that let you share your Steam, Origin and other accounts with other Fragging Frogs.
This thread here contains the information you need on patches and mods for the games we will be playing and gives you an idea of the standard assortment of games we play. Feel free to suggest others as well.
There will be prizes and giveaways but remember that the main point of VLAN #12 is to have fun and get fragging!
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- New Far Cry Primal Trailer @ [H]ardOCP
- XCOM 2’s Day One Mods Reviewed @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Humble Bundle to fund 'Humble Originals' games development @ HEXUS
- X Dash COMING: Xenonauts 2 Confirmed, Going 3D @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Doom On You: New Doom Summoned To May 13th @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Pillars Of Eternity Big Update Due Alongside Expansion @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Descent Veterans Kickstarting Basically Descent 4 @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2016 - 10:30 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, game ready, 362.00 WHQL
The new Far Cry game is out (Far Cry Primal), and for NVIDIA graphics card owners this means a new GeForce Game Ready driver. The 362.00 WHQL certified driver provides “performance optimizations and a SLI profile” for the new game, is now available via GeForce Experience, as well as the manual driver download page.
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
The 362.00 WHQL driver also supports the new Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which is a remastered version of 2007 PC version of the game that includes Windows 10 only enhancements such as 4k resolution support and unlocked frame rates. (Why these "need" to be Windows 10 exclusives can be explained by checking the name of the game’s publisher: Microsoft Studios.)
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Here’s a list of what’s new in version 362.00 of the driver:
- Added Beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3. GPUs supported include all GTX 900 series, Titan X, and GeForce GTX 750 and 750Ti.
- As of Windows 10 November Update, Fermi GPUs now use WDDM 2.0 in single GPU configurations.
For multi-GPU configurations, WDDM usage is as follows:
- In non-SLI multi-GPU configurations, Fermi GPUs use WDDM 2.0. This includes configurations where a Fermi GPU is used with Kepler or Maxwell GPUs.
- In SLI mode, Fermi GPUs still use WDDM 1.3. Application SLI Profiles
Added or updated the following SLI profiles:
- Assassin's Creed Syndicate - SLI profile changed (with driver code as well) to make the application scale better
- Bless - DirectX 9 SLI profile added, SLI set to SLI-Single
- DayZ - SLI AA and NVIDIA Control Panel AA enhance disabled
- Dungeon Defenders 2 - DirectX 9 SLI profile added
- Elite Dangerous - 64-bit EXE added
- Hard West - DirectX 11 SLI profile added
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - multiplayer EXE added to profile
- Need for Speed - profile EXEs updated to support trial version of the game
- Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 - SLI profile added
- Rise of the Tomb Raider - profile added
- Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo - profile updated to match latest app behavior
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege - profile updated to match latest app behavior
- Tom Clancy's The Division - profile added
- XCOM 2 - SLI profile added (including necessary code change)
The "beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3" is certainly interesting addition, and one that could eventually lead to external solutions for notebooks, coming on the heels of AMD teasing their own standardization of external GPUs.
The full release 361 (GeForce 362.00) notes can be viewed here (warning: PDF).
Earlier this week Samsung formally made a couple of announcements for new monitors due out this spring. The CF591 and CF390 range in size from 23 to 27 inches, mating a 1920x1080 resolution with an 1800R curvature and an attractive design. Even better news for gamers, all of the monitors in these two series will offer AMD's variable refresh rate technology known as FreeSync over HDMI.
The specifications of the monitors are interesting in their own light. The CF390 will be available in both 23.5-in and 27-in varieties, with a 1920x1080 resolution on a VA panel, a 4ms response time rating and a maximum brightness of 250 nits. The VA technology allows for solid viewing angles and color reproduction though all of them are limited to a 60Hz maximum refresh rate. The CF591 monitor is only available in a 27-in variety, shares almost all of the same traits, but sheds the glossy black design for a silver and white color option.
The CF390 features only VGA (D-Sub) and HDMI inputs while the CF591 overs VGA, dual HDMI and a single DisplayPort connection as well. Only the CF591 allows for audio input through a 3.5mm connection.
The supposed value of HDMI-based FreeSync is ubiquity and lower cost. Unfortunately, we don't have any pricing information from Samsung on either the CF390 or CF591 monitors, leaving a big question mark for AMD Radeon gamers that might be looking for a new display. Also, while the CF390 directly benefits from the addition of HDMI support on FreeSync, the CF591 still has a DisplayPort connection, meaning the value of HDMI-based FreeSync is lessened.
They 60Hz maximum refresh rate is disappointing in a world where 75Hz, 90Hz, even 165Hz monitors are being released left and right. Will the AMD driver-based frame doubling technology work on these displays? I have an inquiry in to AMD to verify but it might be difficult with the VA panels' minimum refresh rate. To be fair to AMD and Samsung though, this isn't marketed as a gaming monitor, just a monitor that happens to have a very gaming friendly option.
Both of these monitors look pretty sexy though; we need to see and test them in person to see if the image quality and FreeSync performance meet our expectations. Hopefully we'll be able to do so soon, but until then, let's hope that Samsung is able to release these at very competitive prices to help drive down the cost of VRR.
Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2016 - 04:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: xbox one, windows 10, uwp, uwa, universal windows platform, pc gaming, microsoft, consoles
If my editorial from yesterday didn't get you interested in this discussion, then perhaps a new line of talking from Microsoft's Phil Spencer will do the job. During its spring presser, the company's gaming lead talked about a plan to merge the PC and Xbox gaming experiences with cross platform gaming, universal applications and compatibility for upgraded Xbox consoles. I found a great write up over at The Guardian that I will pick some of the quotes from and then offer up my views.
Now it seems Microsoft’s plan is to shift the entire development model towards universal applications that run across PC and console – indeed any machine that’s compatible with the Universal Windows Platform. This could have radical implications for the console model, which so far has always been based on the idea that the hardware has to remain largely unchanged throughout the machine’s lifespan.
Much like I detailed in yesterday's story, the Universal Windows Platform and applications are the key here, with the goal of allowing developers to code a single game or program that will run on the entire gamut of PCs in the world including desktops and tablets, as well as on the Xbox One game console.
“In other [consumer technology] ecosystems you get more continuous innovation in hardware that you rarely see in consoles because consoles lock the hardware and software platforms together at the beginning and they ride the generation out for seven years or so,” said Spencer. “We’re allowing ourselves to decouple our software platform from the hardware platform on which it runs.”
I am actually incredibly excited for the idea of more, and more frequently, updated Xbox hardware from Microsoft. Like it or not, with UWP or without it, consoles and their hardware capability have always been a somewhat limiting factor on how much effort game devs put into creating new games for the PC. If we can depend on newer console hardware, and that games will more ably handle newer, faster components, then it raises the ceiling for image quality, new features, experiences like VR, etc.
“We can effectively feel a little bit more like what we see on PC where I can still go back and run my old Quake and Doom games, but then I can also see the best 4K games coming out. Hardware innovation continues and software takes advantage. I don’t have to jump generation and lose everything I played before.”
Expect to see some rolled eyes as you read this quote from Spencer; as PC gamers we already HAVE that capability and the move to UWP and UWAs is threatening to hinder that for us going forward. The PC has seen Steam, Origin, DRM-free gaming, an accelerated path to digital distribution, mods, overlays, benchmarking - all things that were held back or outlawed on consoles.
The Xbox chief ended his keynote by reiterating the importance of the PC as a gaming platform. He promised that UWAs will support multiple different graphics processors and that issues with V-Sync ( a setting that matches the game framerate with your monitor’s screen refresh rate) would be resolved.
Enabling support for different GPUs is a good promise, but much more important than just saying it is knowing HOW that support will be handled. As we saw based on our testing and research with Ashes of the Singularity, just supporting Radeon and GeForce cards isn't enough. What about features unique to each GPU? What about SLI and CrossFire? Variable refresh rate monitors? Enabling maximum performance with exclusive fullscreen modes? There is a lot to be answered and discussed.
Quantum Break will be on PC, exclusively as a Unified Windows App
This also marks the second time I have heard Spencer mention a "fix" for Vsync issues. I'd love to hear what they have in mind, and I have asked MS several times, but so far I haven't gotten any kind of solid answer. The real question is: does MS understand the problem and the gaming community on the PC well enough to even know what the problem is they are trying to fix?
The big question now is how onboard the development community is with the UWA concept. In theory, these apps should run seamlessly on top of PC and Xbox One architectures, with abstractions to exploit the graphics processors, system memory and other hardware features, as well as compatibility with Microsoft’s DirectX application programming interface (API) for enhanced graphics performance. But will the reality match the promise?
"In theory" and "in practice" are two wildly different things, and we've already seen one example of this not going as planned. I do believe that game developers would jump at the chance to have true cross compatibility as long as the hiccups and issues we are discussing can be dealt with in a reasonable way. It just makes sense: this eases development hurdles and expands the possible customer base.
Outside of Microsoft, it will be interesting to see how studios react. “In principle UWA sounds like a good idea,” says Byron Atkinson-Jones, a veteran games programmer, now running his own indie studio, Xiotex, and working on sci-fi puzzler, Caretaker. “It offers a more unified platform or environment rather than a fragmented operating systems running on an even more fragmented hardware base. However, this is all reliant on just how hard it is to develop for and how much of a closed shop it will become.
“The best thing about PC is that anyone can make a game for it and UWA sounds like it’s going to become a curated system that will probably require some developer registration to get on.”
Exactly this. The benefit of the PC is its openness, even when running on Windows (as opposed to SteamOS or Linux, for example.) If you take that away, will developers and gamers start to walk?
Given that Microsoft is promoting UWP as a catch-all platform for Windows 10 that encompasses Xbox one, what does this mean in terms of support for the console’s hardware specifications? “As it stands currently, if you are making an Xbox one game you can be sure on what kind of hardware it’s running,” says Atkinson-Jones. “If developers are then forced down a UWA route, is it going to be the case that this certainty is gone and we get back to the situation on PC where you have to start specifying a minimum spec – which kind of renders a unified platform redundant?”
I disagree that having a minimum spec makes a unified platform less useful, it simply sets a standard for which experience and gameplay can be measured. Even Apple iPhones and iOS implement this to some degree and they have as locked down of a software ecosystem as you can get. If it's handled correctly, Microsoft could be the arbiter of hardware classification and certification, as they kind of already are with WHQL, making sure that any PC hardware or updated Xbox hardware will pass the test for previous and upcoming gaming titles.
But that is a very difficult task and is likely why MS would like to integrate some restrictions through the API and Windows compositing engine to help them hold that promise moving into the future.
But he will have to convince not just gamers, but the development community. “Microsoft has tried this before with Games for Windows and that was a disaster,” says Atkinson-Jones. “There will be many game developers who had to go through that monstrosity shaking their heads in disbelief that history may just be about to repeat itself.”
Oh yeah, that...remember Games for Windows Live? Remember when it cratered and we had to deal with the fallout of some games not working without GWL servers running? Or just the complication of needing a unique sign-in that often tied the game down in unwieldy ways? That's the dystopian future that PC gamers want to avoid.
All of that being said, I'm still hopeful that Microsoft can turn this into a positive movement. Removing the 7 year upgrade cycle for the Xbox One means that PC gamers will benefit from moving specs on the consoles, giving game developers the ability to target higher end hardware as the platform evolves. I do believe that cross platform games will mean an increase in innovative titles with expanded audiences and more opportunity for developers to make money for their work. But all of this has to be done with more sensitivity to the PC ecosystem than it is being addressed with currently. If nothing else, PC gamers are a loud and easily started group.
Be sure you read the full story over at The Guardian!
Subject: Storage | March 1, 2016 - 01:00 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: WD, hgst, HelioSeal, He8, He6, He10, 8TB
Helium-filled HDD technology has been around for a few years, but since HGST launched their He series a couple of years ago, Helium has been stuck in the enterprise sector. Western Digital has been in a lengthy merger process with HGST, and I figured (hoped) that it would be only a matter of time before we saw Helium-filled consumer HDDs. I’m happy to report that time is now:
The first product lines to see this expansion will be WD’s external offerings (My Book / My Book Duo / My Cloud / My Cloud Mirror / My Cloud EX2 Ultra) and a few internal lines (Purple / Red / Red Pro). Taking a look at the new housing for the 8TB Red:
…we can tell that it appears to be the same HelioSeal tech used by HGST, right down to the external housing design. Here is an HGST He8 housing for reference / comparison:
I’m excited to see He making its way down the product chains, as a sealed HDD enclosure significantly reduces environmental effects on HDD reliability and performance. Helium also means less air friction, causing less heat production and therefore less power consumption. While the capacities are higher, we suspect performance won’t be taking any large leaps with WD’s first generation of Helium filled Hard Disk Drives. We will be testing a few of these once samples arrive and will deliver a full review as soon as possible. Since it appears that Western Digital was holding off on their 8TB capacity point until HelioSeal was integrated, it's a safe bet that their other product lines will receive the same technology and capability in the future.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 29, 2016 - 11:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tesla motors, tesla, SoC, Peter Bannon, Jim Keller
When we found out that Jim Keller has joined Tesla, we were a bit confused. He is highly skilled in processor design, and he moved to a company that does not design processors. Kind of weird, right? There are two possibilities that leap to mind: either he wanted to try something new in life, and Elon Musk hired him for his general management skills, or Tesla wants to get more involved in the production of their SoCs, possibly even designing their own.
Now Peter Bannon, who was a colleague of Jim Keller at Apple, has been hired by Tesla Motors. Chances are, the both of them were not independently interested in an abrupt career change that led them to the same company. That seems highly unlikely, to say the least. So it appears that Tesla Motors wants experienced chip designers in house. What for? We don't know. This is a lot of talent to just look over the shoulders of NVIDIA and other SoC partners, to make sure they have an upper hand in negotiation. Jim Keller is at Tesla as their “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.” We don't know what Peter Bannon's title will be.
And then, if Tesla Motors does get into creating their own hardware, we wonder what they will do with it. The company has a history of open development and releasing patents (etc.) into the public. That said, SoC design is a highly encumbered field, depending on what they're specifically doing, which we have no idea about.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 29, 2016 - 07:06 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, amd, AIB, pc gaming
Jon Peddie Research, which is market analysis firm that specializes in PC hardware, has compiled another report about add-in board (AIB) sales. There's a few interesting aspects to this report. First, shipments of enthusiast AIBs (ie: discrete GPUs) are up, not a handful of percent, but a whole two-fold. Second, AMD's GPU market share climbed once again, from 18.8% up to 21.1%.
This image seems contradict their report, which claims the orange line rose from 44 million in 2014 to 50 million in 2015. I'm not sure where the error is, so I didn't mention it in the news post.
Image Credit: JPR
The report claims that neither AMD nor NVIDIA released a “killer new AIB in 2015.” That... depends on how you look at it. They're clearly referring to upper mainstream, which sit just below the flagship and contribute to a large chunk of enthusiast sales. If they were including the flagship, then they ignored the Titan X, 980 Ti, and Fury line of GPUs, which would just be silly. Since they were counting shipped units, though, it makes sense to neglect those SKUs because they are priced way above the inflection point in actual adoption.
Image Credit: JPR
But that's not the only “well... sort-of” with JPR's statement. Unlike most generations, the GTX 970 and 980 launched late in 2014, rather than their usual Spring-ish cadence. Apart from the GeForce GTX 580, this trend has been around since the GeForce 9000-series. As such, these 2014 launches could have similar influence as another year's early-2015 product line. Add a bit of VR hype, and actual common knowledge that consoles are lower powered than PCs this generation, and you can see these numbers make a little more sense.
Even still, a 100% increase in enthusiast AIB shipments is quite interesting. This doesn't only mean that game developers can target higher-end hardware. The same hardware to consume content can be used to create it, which boosts both sides of the artist / viewer conversation in art. Beyond its benefits to society, this could snowball into more GPU adoption going forward.
Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2016 - 12:48 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft
I haven't seen these first hand, but several tech blogs are reporting that Microsoft has begun advertising on the Windows 10 lock screen. In this case, a full screen image from Rise of the Tomb Raider appears to be overlaid with a few links, like we used to see on the Bing homepage (except that this seems to launch the Windows Store app).
Image Credit: David McGavern via Twitter
One key thing to note, though, is that Microsoft allows you to disable these. If you go to Settings -> Personalization -> Lock screen, you can flip “Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen” to off. It also doesn't appear to be targeted based on your personal information, although that is difficult to tell with a sample size of 1. In that case, however, where the ad is located would be fairly irrelevant.
Personally, I'm not too upset. Microsoft allows an easy, safe opt-out, although the option could be better labeled. Regardless of the number of people who block the ads, the part that matters is how intrusive they are. If the setting continuously reverts, or it moves to Group Policy, the registry, or worse, then it could be a problem. (Or, of course, if it sacrifices usability, performance, or security.)
The last part is an interesting note. I've read a few comments that are concerned about it being an attack vector for malware. They seem to assume it must be, but not necessarily (relative to other theoretical attacks, like Microsoft.com itself getting hacked). It looks like everything is served directly from Microsoft, and the functionality is severely limited. It could be done right, but yes, it's possible that they could be tricked in the future into providing a malicious link (just like they could be tricked into hosting a malicious app at the Windows Store itself). They mostly depends on the volume and type of ads they plan to integrate into the OS, and where.
Windows Store brings me to my personal concern -- antitrust.
Governments have been more permissive about this issue than they were two decades ago. Back then, the integration of web browsers and media applications were cause for litigation. Now, companies like Apple are able to ship OSes that disallow third-party browsers (beyond just reskins of Safari). (Update: Feb 26th @ 8:48pm - There was a bit of confusion. I am referring to iOS, specifically. Mac OSX allows full third-party web browsers. The example was referring to how iOS is legally treated compared to how Windows XP/Vista/7 was.) Again, Microsoft needed to put a browser ballot in Windows XP, Vista, and 7, yet, when Windows RT launched, they would completely ban any web browser unless it used Internet Explorer's Trident engine. Think about that direction shift for a moment.
I wouldn't accuse Windows Store of having a dominant stance in digital distribution market share, but it definitely has unique exposure within the OS. This could become a growing concern, especially if Microsoft progresses with their initiatives. At the same time, several other platform owners are doing the same thing (pretty much all of them). Should we place boundaries on this behavior? If so, what and how?
Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2016 - 05:04 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: windows phone, Project Astoria, microsoft, developers, build 2015, Android
A smartphone is nothing without a large selection of quality apps these days, and to that end it seemed Microsoft was going to follow the BlackBerry OS 10 method (injecting life into a platform barren of software by borrowing Android apps) when they announced the "Windows Bridge for Android" last year.
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Blackberry accomplished this by adding the Amazon app store to OS 10, which gave BB users at least some of the apps an Android user has access to via Google Play. BlackBerry also provided devs tools to help them convert Android apps to run on the BB 10 OS platform, but the market share of BB OS 10 just isn’t high enough to justify many doing this.
Microsoft appeared to be headed in this direction when they introduced Project Astoria at last year’s Build conference, which was going to enable devs to bring Android apps over to the Windows mobile OS. Well, that’s over. In an update published yesterday by Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s Director of Windows Developer Platform, this news was spun positively (of course).
“We also announced the Windows Bridge for Android (project “Astoria”) at Build last year, and some of you have asked about its status. We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing. We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs. For those developers who spent time investigating the Android Bridge, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the iOS Bridge and Xamarin as great solutions.”
To editoralize here a bit, I will add that I own a Lumia smartphone, and in my experience Windows Phone is an innovative and extremely efficient mobile OS. However, the lack of quality apps (and the non-existent updates for those that do exist) is too great a barrier to use a Windows Phone as my primary device. It’s telling that BlackBerry's latest smartphone, the Priv, runs Android, as BlackBerry has effectively given up trying to compete with their own OS.
BlackBerry Priv, which runs the Android 5 OS (image credit: BlackBerry)
Microsoft seems unwilling to do this, but they are a software company first and foremost and that's not surprising. But as a hardware company they have struggled with portable devices, as we saw with the ill-fated Kin smartphone, and of course the Zune music player. Android is the only realistic option if you want to compete with iOS on a smartphone, but Microsoft hasn't given up on the OS just yet. As much as I like the tiled interface, I think it's time to say goodbye to this iteration of Windows Mobile.